Month: March 2010

Court Rules Gene Patents Illegal

It is generally true that bad people push the law until it breaks, and the folks at Myriad Genetics are a truly nasty bit of work.

Basically, they discovered the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which predispose one to breast cancer, and had received a patent on the genes, and offered a not particularly good and very expensive test for the genes, and using their government granted monopoly, they were prohibiting any and all competing tests or research on better tests for these genes.

The judge has now ruled that the genes are a discovery, and not an invention, which makes them non-patentable, except, perhaps in Germany.*

The VC’s are wringing their hands, because patent protection helps with their pump and dump schemes, but development has been continuing apace on genes that are not covered by these patents:

Some biotechnology investors and executives say that lack of patent protection for DNA could diminish investment and remove incentives to develop tests. That could slow the move toward so-called personalized medicine, in which genetic tests are used to determine which drugs are best for which patients.

James P. Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina, said that would not necessarily be the case. There is thriving competition in areas like testing for mutations that cause cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease, even though no company has exclusivity.

“It’s quite demonstrable that in the diagnostic area, one does not need gene patents in order to see robust development of these tests,” he said.

Note that this does not prohibit patenting the tests, it just prohibits patenting the genes.

This is a good ruling: the patenting of genes, or for that matter the patents of hedging techniques, as is the case in Bilski, which the Supreme Court will heard arguments for in November.

IP law is, at its core, public interest law (it’s in the constitution), and patents on business methods, species, and genes, do not serve the public interest

Earlier posts on the subject.

*This is what got us that Mercedes ad where they say that they have a patent on crumple zones, but “Never enforced the Patent”. They never enforced the patent, because it is not recognized anywhere else in the world.
I believe Germany changed their patent laws at some point in the 1970s.
I offer the caveat that these comments in the footnotes regarding the Mercedes patent are recollections of a conversation over a decade ago vague 20+ year old memories though, so YMMV, though a Google search does have people who recall the ad.

Obama Says, “Drill, Baby, Drill”

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The Audacity of D’oh!

Once again, Barack Obama decides to cock-punch the base, and he announces a massive expansion of offshore drilling that largely echos those of George W. Bush, with the protection of Bristol Bay being the only major change.

He did this with nuclear power a 1½ months ago, so I guess that this is not a surprise, particularly given his lip service to the fraud that is “clean coal.”

It appears that part of his goal is to get some Republican support for his climate change bill, but, as was shown in healthcare reform, the Republicans are not good faith actors.

Better to use the recent EPA declaration about C02 emissions as a harmful emissions as a club, and keep this in your back pocket, because giving away the store upfront results in really bad policy.

Someone Explain This To Me

The Supreme Court just handed down a decision in Jones v. Harris, where investors sued brokers for excessive fees.

CNN has an article titled, “Mutual fund investors win Supreme Court victory,” and Reuters has an article titled, “Supreme Court hands victory to mutual fund industry.”

It appears that the court rejected the lower court ruling that, “That the competition that has developed among mutual funds in recent years is sufficient protection for mutual fund investors,” which would be construed as a win for investors, but retained the standard of, “fees are excessive only when they are so high they could not be the result of arm’s-length bargaining and bear no reasonable relationship to the services provided.

It sounds to me like they split the baby, which seems to be the SCOTUSblog’s take on this too, which would imply to me that we will see this back before the court in the next decade or so.

Shocker of the Day: Global Warming Deniers Funded by Oil Company

I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!

It turns out that Koch Industries has funneled millions of dollars to a veritable alphabet soup of anti-global warming front groups.

I’ve been aware of this for a while, it just pops up every now and again that the Koch family is seriously right wing (see their backing of the teabaggers), but Greenpeace has connected the dots:

A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.

The environmental campaign group accuses Kansas-based Koch Industries, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.

Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48m (£31.8m) to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008. From 2005-2008, it donated $25m to groups opposed to climate change, nearly three times as much as higher-profile funders that time such as oil company ExxonMobil. Koch also spent $5.7m on political campaigns and $37m on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.

I put this down as a “Captain Renault” moment. It’s been clear for a very long time that the global warming skeptics are a “rent a crowd.”

Court Finds NSA Guilty of Illegal Wiretapping

This was the lawsuit against the NSA for their warrantless wiretapping of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, and their discussions with their lawyers, and Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has granted a summary judgment against the government, basically saying that the Foundation had good evidence of wiretapping, and if the US government was unwilling to provide exculpatory evidence, it was making a broad claims of the state secrets privilege.

Basically, he said that the government refused to defend themselves, and that the state secrets privilege is trumped by FISA. so they lose the case.

As Emptywheel notes:

Walker is basically saying, “Well, government, if you won’t give us any evidence to prove you legally wiretapped al-Haramain, and given all the evidence they’ve presented proving they were wiretapped, then they win!”

Here’s his argument. The government had a way to defend against al-Haramain’s case directly, in camera, but they refused to avail themselves of it.

Unfortunately, this may not mean much, because they actually had proof of wiretapping, because the prosecution accidentally delivered logs of the wiretaps to them during discovery.

This is unlikely to be repeated.

Needless to say, I am sick and tired of the Obama administrations full throated defense of executive branch overreach and secrecy, as well as their attempts to further the coverup of Bush administration law breaking under the guise of “looking ahead.”

I am very happy that they lost today.

Economics Update

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Philly Fed 1st Q: 25 states down, 18 up, 7 unchanged

The official non-farm payroll (NFP) number comes out on Friday, but today we have the private report from ADP, which shows a loss of 23,000 jobs, but the payroll withholding taxes numbers imply an increase in total jobs of something in the 300,000 range.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Bank of the Federal Reserve has released its State Coincident Indexes, which show that half of the states contracted over the past 3 months, and 23 decreased in the past month.

It’s better than it was a year ago, but it’s still not good.

In the consumer sector, consumer spending rose in February, and the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose in March.

On the production side, factory orders rose for the 6th month, though the data was not good in the Midwest, with the, with the Chicago purchasing managers index falling.

In real estate, mortgage application, including purchases, rose last week, and Fannie Mae has reported that mortgage delinquencies rose to 5.52% in January.

Note that because of the different times covered, these numbers may be consistent.

Across the ponds, Euro zone inflation rose to 1.5% year over year, and unemployment broke 10%, while in China, manufacturing grew faster than forecast in March.

Meanwhile, for reasons that I do not understand, oil rose, though the Chinese manufacturing data might have led to concerns over additional demand, and both the dollar and the Yen fell on reduced demand for safe havens.


California Republican Senate Candidate, Carly Fiorina, who appears to intend to do to the Golden State what she did to Hewlett Packard,*, has now Jewish voters to “break bread” over Passover:

This week, as we break bread and spend time with our families and friends, I hope we also take a moment to say a word of thanks for our freedom and for those who have given their lives in freedom’s name. Let us also look ahead with hope to the opportunities to come.

(emphasis mine)

For those of you who don’t get it, Jews are not supposed to eat bread during Passover. What we eat is Matzoh, which is an unleavened biscuit which has more in common with the box that it comes in than it does with a loaf of bread.

This is really, really stupid, and statement from her PR flak, that, “We meant all bread, leavened and unleavened, and matzo is just unleavened bread so that’s what we meant by that,” is just plain lame.

Matzoh is not bread, as any of the millions of Jews who are Jonesing for a piece of bread right now can tell you, and the idea of describing a Passover Seder (ritual festival meal) as “breaking bread” is wrong on so many levels.

The stupid, it burns us!

*When she was fired employees sprang into spontaneous song, singing, “Ding, Dong, the witch is dead!”

Full letter follows

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Carly Fiorina
Date: Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 11:09 PM
Subject: Best wishes for a safe and happy Passover

Carly for California

Passover is a time of remembrance and thanks. This festival provides us all — Jewish, Christian and all faiths — an opportunity to reflect on the challenges we have faced and the triumphs we have achieved together. It is also a reminder of the resilient spirit that has carried people through trials of every kind through every generation.

This week, as we break bread and spend time with our families and friends, I hope we also take a moment to say a word of thanks for our freedom and for those who have given their lives in freedom’s name. Let us also look ahead with hope to the opportunities to come.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.


Carly Fiorina

915 L Street, Suite C-378
Sacramento, CA 95814

Paid for by Carly for California

We Now Have a Video of a Teabagger Spitting on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)

People Who Don’t Read the Constitution

So much for all the Teabaggers, as well as Sean Hannity, denying that it ever happened.

Someone does not understand congressional immunity:

…shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same, and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

(emphasis mine)

A congressman in that position could have pulled out a gun and shot the protesters dead,* and shot them dead, because they are immune from almost all prosecution.

Doubtless any member of the House or Senate who did this would be expelled in short order, but prosecution would be complex, to say the least.

*Take my legal advice with a grain of salt, I’m an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit!
I LOVE IT when I get to go all Doctor McCoy!!!

Apoligies Do Not Make One a Gentleman

And while retired Marine Corps General John Sheehan is clearly an officer, notwithstanding his apology for lying about being told that it was “te gay” in the Dutch that resulted in the Srebrenica massacre, he is no gentleman, because it is clear that consciously and deliberately lied before Congress in his testimony:

A retired American general has apologized for a remark to the U.S. Senate suggesting that gay Dutch soldiers were partly to blame for the Srebrenica massacre by Serb soldiers in Bosnia, according to the Defense Ministry.


Sheehan had cited Van den Breemen, the Dutch military’s chief of staff at the time of the massacre, as his source when he told the Senate committee Dutch army chiefs had believed gays were “part of the problem” in the fall of Srebrenica.

“I am sorry that my recent public recollection of those discussions of 15 years ago inaccurately reflected your thinking on some specific social issues in the military,” Sheehan wrote to Van den Breemen.

What happened here is clear: He lied, and he figured that it would not go beyond the committee room.

Well, it did, and I would hope that any entity which wishes to hire him as a military consultant understands this.

My earlier post.

Republican National Committee Spending Money on Bondage Themed Lesbian Shows

No, really, this is not The Onion:

According to two knowledgeable sources, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele once raised the possibility of using party money to buy a private jet for his travel.


While Steele has not purchased a plane, he continues to charter them. According to federal disclosure records, the RNC spent $17,514 on private aircraft in the month of February alone (as well as $12,691 on limousines during the same period). There are no readily identifiable private plane expenses for Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in the DNC’s last three months of filings.


Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

RNC trips to other cities produced bills from a long list of chic and costly hotels such as the Venetian and the M Resort in Las Vegas, and the W (for a total of $19,443) in Washington. A midwinter trip to Hawaii cost the RNC $43,828, not including airfare.

(emphasis mine)

There have been some complaints that Michael Steele has been spending his time stumping for Michael Steele, and his upcoming book, and not the party, but this is just nuts.

This is not a picture of a party resurgent.

Militia Arrests in Michigan

It appears that the Hutaree, a right wing Christofascist militia group, and it should be noted one so crazy that it gave other Christofascist militia groups the heebee jeebees, has been the subject of raids by the FBI and the DHS, and at least 7 members were arrested.

One interesting bit here is that the other militia groups in Michigan have been falling all over themselves to help the authorities.

The indictment has been unsealed, and among the accusations are that they were intending to “levy war” against the United States, by killing law enforcement officers:

According to federal authorities, the group had identified a Michigan law enforcement officer as a potential target. Their idea was to kill that officer and when law enforcement officials from around the country came to the area for the funeral, they would attack the procession with improvised explosive devices and “explosively formed projectiles.” They hoped the attack would serve as a “catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the government.”

A scouting mission was planned for April and, if someone had stumbled upon the mission, the Hutaree decided they could be killed, according to the indictment.

I expect to see more of this.

The Glenn Beck Conspiracy Theory Generator

The folks at Political Humor came up with this, and it’s too good not to share.

The odd thing is that this is saner than the original (Beck), but I guess that artificial stupidity is just as hard as artificial intelligence.

If you go to the link (you can click on the picture), then you can see the generator, which cycles through all sorts of psycho-pathological goodness.

Still, it makes me wonder if Glenn Beck is not just some sort of bizarre performance artist putting all of us on.

Stiglitz on the Economy

Depressing … True … But Depressing

The Nobel Prize winning economist has been in opposition to the general economic/political religion consensus that efficient markets will save us all.

This is rather lengthy, 1:06:10, but this is clear and relatively easily understood talk on why the great crash occurred, and what needs to be done.

It is a blistering indictment of both the financial regime, and the state of affairs in economics as an academic institution.

The man is brilliant, and he understands how the conventional wisdom is wrong, and so, he will never get a phone call from the Obama administration.

Best Apology Ever!

Writer J.D. Shapiro, apologizing for being the 1st script writer for Battlefield Earth.

Seriously, I cannot do justice to this, not can I provide excerpts that do justice, but here is a sample:

During my Scientology research, I met an employee who I instantly had a crush on. She was kind of a priestess, and had dedicated her life to working for the church by becoming a Sea Org member. She said that she signed a billion-year contract. I said, “What! Really?” She said she got paid a small stipend of $50 a week, to which I said, “Can you get an advance on the billion years, like say, a mere $500,000?” And then she said as a Sea Org member, you can’t have sex unless you’re married. I asked her if she was married. She said yes. So I said, “Great! That means we can have sex!”

It is simply exquisite!

Go read.